HARTFORD, CT — With less than two weeks to the end of the legislative session, the state Sentencing Commission is asking Senate leaders to bring two potentially controversial proposals to a vote.
SB 1113 would create a new sex offender registry board, which would set the length of time a person could be on the registry based on their risk of reoffending and not just the offenses they committed.
CLICK TO VOTE ON SB 1113: An Act Concerning The Recommendations Of The Connecticut Sentencing Commission With Respect To The Sexual Offender Registry, Petitions To Terminate Parental Rights Of Incarcerated Parents And Sentence Review
The bill would also create two registries, one that is public, which would contain the information on high-risk offenders that the public can see and one that can only be seen by law enforcement, which would contain all offenders that the board deems necessary.
The commission made up of judges and department heads dealing with criminal justice issues including the Office of the Victim Advocate and Chief State’s Attorney is also asking for a vote on SB 948, a bill that would allow defendants to seek a 364-day sentence rather than a one-year sentence, which in some cases would prevent deportation according to federal immigration laws.
“We realize that these bills address difficult issues and that you have other competing priorities,” Commission Chair Judge Robert Devlin and Commission Executive Director Alex Tsarkkov said in a letter to Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven.
“We ask that you review these two bills and bring them up for a vote this legislative session,” the two added.
The bills were approved by the Judiciary Committee but have not yet come up for a discussion or a vote in the Senate. The bills would also have to be approved by the House and signed by Gov. Ned Lamont to become law.
The sex offender registry bill is based on years of work by the commission and other state officials to determine effective ways of making the registry more equitable based on risk factors rather than offenses, said commission member Robert Farr, a former legislator and a previous head of the Board of Pardons and Paroles.
“It’s harder for people who are on the registry to get employment and it’s harder to get housing,” Farr said after the bill was approved by the Judiciary Committee in March. “Studies have shown that people who are homeless are five times more likely to commit a new offense.”
The board would gather risk assessment information from probation and parole officials and make a decision on the appropriate length of time a person should be on the registry.
Offenders who are considered low-risk would be placed on the law enforcement registry, which only law enforcement would be able to see. The bill would create three lengths of time a person would be required to be on either registry — 10 years, 20 years, or for life. People are placed on the existing registry for periods of 10 years or for life.
Under the current sex offender registry laws there is no mechanism for appeal of a lifetime registration requirement. The proposed law would allow people to appeal to the newly created sex offender registry board.
The bill before the Senate has the support of the Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence, according to testimony provided during a public hearing on April 1.
The same bill also includes changes to the termination of parental rights for people who are incarcerated and sentence modification reviews.
The 364-day sentencing bill would provide protection for immigrants who are charged with misdemeanor crimes. Under federal law, immigrants can be deported if they are sentenced to a crime for a period of one year or longer.
The commission is seeking to allow defendants sentenced to one-year in prison for a misdemeanor to apply to the court to have the sentence changed to 364 days. The move would allow people convicted of misdemeanors to avoid deportation under federal laws.
“This legislation is important given the serious immigration consequences the current penalty carries under federal immigration law,” Devlin and Tsarkov said in the letter.
The sex offender registry bill has been on the Senate calendar since May 14. The 364-day sentence bill has been on the Senate calendar since April 8.